I’ve determined that the most important meal of the day is … the Word.
Second most important meal? Coffee.
By the way, Micah agrees with both determinations. (Note his coffee mug in the background.)
I’ve determined that the most important meal of the day is … the Word.
Second most important meal? Coffee.
By the way, Micah agrees with both determinations. (Note his coffee mug in the background.)
Tice stood at the riverbank, spring runoff flowing swiftly past him. Certain death lay ahead. Certain torture lay behind. First, he couldn’t swim. And torture? That’s what they did with slaves who tried to escape.
Struggling to catch his breath, he thought, Lord, how’d Your boy get here? What on earth I done?
Homeschoolers need a good dose of history to pass Department of Education requirements, but where on earth can they find exciting, informative books that fulfill those guidelines and are told from a Christian perspective?
Let me introduce True North: Tice’s Story, my historical novel about the Underground Railroad that does not flinch from including God’s influence on the daring men and women who defied the risk of fines and jail time by breaking the law and helping slaves escape to “Freedom Land.”
Chosen by Publishers Weekly as a Featured Book for its Booklife magazine, True North: Tice’s Story carries readers along with 19-year-old slave Tice on his frightful flight to freedom. Pursued by his plantation’s menacing foreman, Morgan, who possesses an unnatural hatred of him, Tice is scurried along by courageous real-life heroes of the Underground Railroad in 1860.
Christian and Jewish families, even Henry David Thoreau, help Tice whom they find likeable, friendly and even funny despite his life of misery and who wears his love of God on his sleeve.
Indeed, on a late-night ride with Thoreau the 19-year-old Tice carries the day in an entertaining talk about God with the venerable author.
Publisher’s Weekly wrote that True North “vividly describes the plight of runaway slaves” and “Tice exhibits a deep religious confidence that will endear him to readers of inspirational literature. While the main plot is a work of fiction, the well-researched historical elements make it believable and even, at times, educational.”
Absorbing characters fill the pages with insight into the slavery debate; the runaways’ ever-present dread of being captured; and even humor from some of the Underground Railroad’s younger “conductors.”
Written for middle-schoolers and adults, True North: Tice’s Story is one of three Christian historical novels I’ve written that homeschoolers have embraced. The others are The Crossing, the previously veiled story of the Ku Klux Klan in Maine in the 1920s; and Midnight Rider for the Morningstar, the story of Francis Asbury, America’s first circuit-riding preacher, who sailed to America in 1771 and escaped ravenous wolves, deadly Indians, and dangerous highwaymen to carry the Word of God to the colonies and beyond. All are available on amazon.com.
We probably all think about who we most want to meet in person, invite to dinner, delve the depths of religion, society, politics. But what about fictional characters?
The question occurred to me while watching the Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, in which the lead character is taken back in time and meets Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, Cole Porter and Pablo Picasso among others — all living in Paris at that time.
So-o, which fictional characters would you find most intriguing to meet?
Here’s a challenge: Think it through and then write a scene with your characters — perhaps around the table that night, then around the billiard table afterward dinner. Or choose another place.
Long John Silver downed a shot of Jack Daniel’s and narrowed his eyes on the skinny, shoeless man dressed in rags. “Hey, Crusoe—Robbie, me laddy—I appreciate ye can start a fire rubbin’ two twigs to’gather, but do so somewhere else, not on me bar stool.”
Dantes, sitting with the dainty Miss Woodhouse, stiffened at Long John’s aggressive reproach, ready to protect his young companion if some clash should occur.
Then Flagstaff set down his stein full of frothing beer and stepped between Long John and Crusoe, one hand on a hip, one on the hilt of his sword. “My piece of the kingdom, good sir, to view such an admirable and uncommon a demonstration outside King Henry the Fifth’s court. Be it on your bar stool as well as anywhere.”
Coffee mug in hand, Jack Reacher eyed the sword sheathed at Falstaff’s side and wondered about the make of steel. Was it German, or Swiss, or British? Did it have nicks from carving up adversaries? Had it done battle at all?
He gauged that it was thirty-eight inches long, about the length of his own arms, and weighed a hefty three pounds. Maybe three-and-a-half. He’d hefted a claymore once and it was a good four or five pounds. Not a weapon for the weak.
Whatever the weight, it would be easy enough to step inside a parry. If need be. A thumb to the fat man’s eye, another to his solar plexus and he’d be disabled in, say, eight-tenths of a second. Perhaps six-tenths. If need be, that is. If this Falstaff fellow pursued the issue. If he didn’t see his folly.
It was then that Scrooge entered the bar. Good ole Scrooge, God bless him, his dark past forgotten, his new demeanor bright as the sun, his pocketbook as open as his heart; Scrooge, his hat in hand, shrugging off his overcoat and hanging it by the door; Scrooge, the man once despised by all but now adored like a kindly and kingly legend; yes, ole Scrooge the peacekeeper who, if one person owed another and a brawl was about to begin over the coinage, be it a crown or half-pence, would pay the lapsed amount to avoid a scrap; Scrooge who, in fact, had just dropped shiny pounds sterling into the pockets of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, who were whitewashing the front of the building.
At the transformed man’s entrance was the moment transformed, its tension distilled.
“I’d like to see this demonstration myself, Long John,” Scrooge said, his smile broad and kindly, his eyes twinkling as stars. “And my friend, also.”
He waved a hand behind him. Through the door came the prettiest young lady this side of Turnbury. Not flashy but stunning, not prideful but self-confident, Kat Cardova was, yes, in the house.
Reacher gulped at her beauty. He’d seen her picture on magazine covers, but justice had not been done. And he was all about justice. Always. Justice and Reacher were tight friends.
Long John drained another shot. He would have forgotten his name if asked. Beauty sometimes affected him thus — be it a full chest of bounty or a finely crafted lady.
Crusoe straightened his back, then bowed toward Kat. “At your leisure, m’ lady.”
Your turn! And please do send it to me. The best scene (as chosen by a jury of one: me) gets a free, signed copy of True North: Tice’s Story, my tale about a young slave who escapes from Kentucky along the Underground Railroad, chased by a dastardly man who would be right at home on Long John Silver’s ship.
We’ve owned some brilliant dogs in our time, the smartest being Jamie (half border collie, half golden retriever). Close behind were purebred border collies Tess, Kate and Yancey and now border collie-Aussie Micah.
Micah is the least intelligent among this group — although he would strenuously argue the point — and yet he is the scribe, the one who chooses to write the scenes involving Tuck, the doggie star in my Thrill of the Hunt Series.
Tuck is the best pal and protector of Dr. Kat Cardova, our Yale University archaeologist.
It’s important to know that dogs are far smarter than most people realize. On average they can learn as many as 300 “people” words. Border collies can learn as many as 500 “people” words. My wife and I have had to continue coming up with synonyms or spelling our more commons words and expressions when around Jamie, Kate, Yancey, Micah and our other canines. (Use the word “pooch” around here and you’re in the real dog house.)
In our home “walk” becomes “stroll” becomes “hike” becomes “march” becomes “w-a-l-k” becomes “s-t-r-o-l-l.” “Car” becomes “vehicle” becomes “automobile” becomes “Escape” becomes “c-a-r.”
You get the idea.
So it was only natural that when I introduced the character Tuck into Chasing the Music, my first Thrill of the Hunt book, that Micah insisted on writing the Tuck scenes. Micah has no problem commandeering my chair — any chair, for that matter — and since he knows better how dogs think, hey, rock ‘n roll, bud.
Micah’s first attempt came early in Chasing the Music. Kat’s in Israel; Micah’s in America; and Kat calls her friend Alice, who is caring for Tuck. Our hero, black-ops veteran Max, hears Kat’s end of the conversation:
“Yes, it’s Kat … I just wanted to see how Tuck is doing.”
“Really? To the kids’ school?”
“No. No, I don’t think he’s ever been a ‘show-and-tell’ before.”
“Well, I’m not surprised. I think he knows half of what I say. I have to spell some words and he’s figured them out, so I go to the Thesaurus and find another word to spell—”
“You, too? I should have mentioned.”
“Yes, you, Bill and the kids will figure it out.”
“Can I speak to him?
Kat looked at Max and said, “You remember that old TV show ‘Are You Smarter than a 5th-grader?’ Well, I think Tuck is.”
Max laughed. “Of course.”
Kat held up her hand for silence. “Tuck?”
“Tuck, it’s Mommy.”
A bark. Two barks.
“I’m sorry, but I’ll be gone longer than expected.”
“I’ll bring you a gift.”
A low growl.
“You don’t want a gift?”
“Then I’ll just bring me.”
Kat looked at Max. “That’s my boy.”
Max chuckled. “And a lucky boy at that.”
Kat slapped his arm.
“Tuck, I love you. Be a good boy.”
Near the end of Chasing the Music it’s Kat’s birthday. Still in Israel, Max has a surprise.
Max dialed a number and when a woman answered, he asked, “Ready?”
“What are you doing?” Kat asked.
Max pressed SPEAKER and handed her the phone, certain she had no clue who was on the end of the line.
“Hello?” Kat said.
Her answer came quickly with three barks.
Kat’s face lit up like a candle. “Tuck!”
Kat looked at Max and whispered, “Thank you.”
Max smiled back at her, glad to read the delight in her face.
“Tuck, I miss you.”
“I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to get home when I planned.”
A low growl.
Kat looked at Max and said, “He’s displeased.”
“I can hear it,” Max said, trying to suppress a chuckle.
“No, I mean it. He is not happy.”
Max wiped the smile from his face.
“Tucky, I love you.”
A reluctant bark.
“I will get home as soon as possible. Tell Auntie that, okay?”
Another growl, followed by two barks.
“I can see him wagging his tail,” Kat said to Max.
Back to the phone, she said: “What a wonderful birthday present. Thank you, Tuck. You’re the best boy in the whole wide world. Bye-bye.”
In the second Thrill of the Hunt book, The Three Sixes, Max is in the Beinecke Library at Yale University and has yet to meet Tuck. When I let that cat (sorry for that)… When I let that information out of the bag, Micah again took over the keyboard. Here’s the result:
Wearing plastic gloves from the reception desk, Max began leafing through the Hadith Qudsi’.
[That book title is the one place I had to help Micah; he is yet to learn Arabic.]
A short, low woof broke Max’s concentration and he looked to the source. Three feet from him stood a handsome, almost regal, black-and-white border collie. The dog barked again, a low-decibel statement. Max cocked his head. The dog cocked his head. Max extended his hand. The dog retreated a step and woofed again, then turned to leave. He took a step, looked back over his shoulder, and woofed a little louder, a bit higher-pitched, adding urgency. Or exaggeration? Border collies, after all, were no-nonsense, used to being in charge.
Max grinned. He lifted the book from the nook and followed the dog, who was moving along at a good clip—purpose in his step. A few yards along, the dog again looked over his shoulder, as if he were making sure Max was tailing along. Max could have sworn he read a smile on his muzzle.
A right turn, a left turn, and they approached a woman seated in a corner nook. The dog turned and sidled up to the woman [Kat], his shoulder touching her leg.
Notice how Micah described Tuck as “handsome, almost regal.”
That’s kind of how Micah feels about himself.
Oh, and that phrase “used to being in charge”? Micah is every bit that.
I left Tuck out of Operation Jeremiah’s Jar, the third Thrill of the Hunt book, which again takes place in Israel. Micah’s reaction?
Well, let’s just say my next Max-and-Kat adventure will indeed include the, the … “the intrepid, the awe-inspiring, the transcendent”… (See there how he again took over my computer!)
Again and again, the United Nations proves to be a group of duped fools and/or evil plotters — to the extent that a couple of my novels appear prophetic. By the UN’s actions a week ago, the plot of The Last Aliyah has moved from “possibility” to “probability.”
With China closing down churches and rounding up Christians by the thousands; Sudanese Arabs terrorizing Christians; Syria attacking its own people with chemical weapons — with all of this happening, the UN chose to respond as usual — by reprimanding Israel for responding to a barrage of bombs from Gaza into Jewish communities.
Anti-Semitism is on the rise everywhere — not just the Arab Middle East. And the overwhelming vote against Israel, with many countries abstaining, proves the point.
Well, The Last Aliyah begins with the United Nations approving Resolution No. 2019-666 which bans Jewish immigration into Israel. No more Jews are allowed to leave America, France, anywhere and move to the Jewish homeland.
The reasoning: because Arabs are allowed to vote in Israel and because of their explosive birth rate, they can eventually take control of the land by sheer population growth — a takeover speeded up if Jewish immigration is outlawed.
In the middle of the night before leaving Washington, DC, for summer vacation, the U.S. Senate bows to the anti-Semitic President’s will — and arm-twisting and political promises — and approves the Resolution.
Voila! A modern-day underground railroad rushes to help Jews escape America — either to emigrate directly to Israel or get to a country (Canada) that has not approved the Resolution.
Here’s the first scene of The Last Aliyah, written during President Barack Obama’s administration when such a scenario seemed more plausible. But, truly, could this happen today? Or under another President’s administration? Anti-Semitism is not only growing in Europe and England but here in America.
The call that changed Nobel laureate Omri Zohn’s life came at that hour whenthe most distasteful acts are perpetrated in Washington, D.C.—when Congressmen can board flights home before the news hits the airwaves.
Omri forced one eye open and squinted to see the phone’s caller ID. 202 area code. His friend, U.S. Senator Joseph Frank. His heart fluttered, or maybe even skipped a beat and he tried to calm a shaking hand as he reached for the phone.
“Omri! It’s Joseph.” The voice boiled with tension, urgency. Zohn sat up in his bed and struggled to open the other eye. He looked at his clock: 2:58 a.m.
“They’ve done it, Omri!” Frank’s hoarse utterance quaked between a rasp and a gasp. “The Senate just approved enforcing the United Nations Resolution.”
A crushing weight settled on his chest. “Oh, my Lord,” rushed in a hushed tone through his lips—more a moan than a statement.
“We Jews are now essentially prisoners in our own countries,” Frank said. “Not allowed to go to Israel or any country that defies the UN Resolution outlawing emigration to the Holy Land. Get your escape plan in motion, now, as I will mine.”
“You said ‘we,’ Joseph. Even youcan’t leave?”
The three-term senator from Florida grunted. “Even I. Beware of men in dark suits at your door. They’ll hold you here.”
Omri shook his head in the dark, then said, “My brother, Ariel, just called me yesterday. He’s got stage-four cancer.”
“Are there no exceptions, Joseph? Any chance at all that I can get permission to visit him?”
Anguish!Omri gritted his teeth. “Joseph! You know that my son and his wife and child moved to Israel a year ago. You’re saying I can’t see them again, either?”
“Not a chance,” Joseph said, “unless Benjamin and his family come back to America. But if they did, then, of course, they couldn’t be allowed back out of the country. Not unless they’ve obtained their Israeli citizenship already,”
Omri flicked on the light of his nightstand and swung his legs off the bed. If the sky was falling, he had to move, get his plans in motion.
“Homeland Security had representatives in the chambers, sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting to give the ‘go’ signal to headquarters,” Frank said. “Making it more repulsive is that today is August second, the last day before the six-week summer recess. So my colleagues—the brave sort that they are—are about to vanish into the countryside and avoid any nasty questions.”
Omri chuckled ruefully. “No surprise there.”
A pause, then Frank added, “You realize this begins the curse on America.”
Omri knew the scripture: “I will bless those who bless My people, but those who curse them I shall curse.”
“God speed, my friend!” Joseph said. “Hopefully we’ll meet again in Israel. Shalom.”
The line clicked off.
Omri settled the landline phone in its cradle, like it was a grenade. He peered at his bedside clock. 3:01. Appropriate, he thought, recalling that Psalm 3 verse 1 reads: “O, Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!”
He spoke softly the seventh and eighth verses: “Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May Your blessing be on Your people.”
You can grab a copy of The Last Aliyah through Amazon.com, elklakepublishinginc.com, barnesandnoble.com, or me personally. A Christmas present for a friend or yourself? Sure!
Thanks for your support, everyone who answered my request for their favorite “as-yet-Unknown author” by naming me. But I think I’d like to mention three other nominees in particular: Charles Martin, Lynn Austin and Assaf Gavron.
I must say, I love y’all’s taste.
AFA Journal Editor Randall Murphree, renowned for his insights into novels as well as news, suggested Martin, who has written The Dead Don’t Dance, Wrapped in Rain and When Crickets Cry among others. And with When Crickets Cry under my belt, I anticipate reading the others.
“I wish every fiction lover could discover Charles Martin,” Randall wrote and he made sure I did by mailing me his own copy of When Crickets Cry.
Writing When Crickets Cry in first-person point of view, Martin drills deep into the psyche of his protagonist and other characters and you feel what they feel — deeply. Their aspirations are yours, their challenges yours, their desperation yours.
One distinction of a good book is when you hope its characters return in a sequel. It’s apparently not happening here, but I expect Charles Martin meets, even exceeds, expectations in other offerings.
Thank you, Charles.
Jewish Jewels cofounder and president Neil Lash recommended Austin, whose historical biblical novels are “great writing and give real insights into the Bible and the people who are in it, like Isaiah and the kings of Israel,” Neil said.
The first one of Austin’s books I look forward to reading is Keepers of the Covenant, in which she “weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss.”
After that will come Austin’s On This Foundation, following Nehemiah, the cupbearer to Persian king Artaxerxes who gives him permission to lead a rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall — never anticipating all the dangers that await him on his arrival.
MaryAnn Gilbert’s choice of well-known Israeli author (but who’s heard of him in America?) Assaf Gavron is intriguing.
Gavron’s The Hilltop, translated into English by Steven Cohen, is celebrated in Israel. It is a deeply true but fictional story of a hilltop settlement in the West Bank, otherwise known as Judea and Samaria.
Gavron invites readers into the homes, lives and faith of Israeli settlers who create, inhabit and defend their settlements while attempting to live in peace with Arab neighbors and the politics of Israel.
“We follow the reasoning and choices of those who stay, those who leave, visit elsewhere and return, and those who visit and leave for a place more suited to their comfort zone,” MaryAnn said.
She added, “It is a fascinating read for someone like me who has visited Israel so many times, followed its history since a child and wondered endlessly about this very thing — the ‘settlements’ which really are not that but either incipient cities or cities already.”
Sounds like fascinating reading!
Please take my recommendation, folks, and visit the works of these three authors… and, by the way, investigate authors not on the bestseller lists, won’t you?
So my editor, Judy Hagey, has crossed my t’s, dotted my i’s and unmixed my mixed-up prose; my publisher, Deb Haggerty, has woven her magic; Deb’s book designer, Derinda Babcock, has caught the novel’s action at its height.
And now Operation Jeremiah’s Jar, the newest action/thriller in my Thrill of the Hunt series, is available from Elk Lake Publishing, Amazon.com, and our friends at fine bookstores everywhere. (Hey, you can even get a signed copy from me if you’d like.)
Black-ops veteran Max Braxton and archeologist Kat Cardova are back and just as in Chasing the Music and The Three Sixes, danger trails them at every turn. Like a viper after a bird, like Lex Luther after Superman, like… (Okay, enough.)
But now Max has even more reason to protect the lady whom Palestinian jihadists would love to murder. He and Kat are married.
Here’s the scoop. The United Nations has long led a diplomatic jihad against Israel, even claiming Jews have no historic claim on Jerusalem. But 2,600-year-old proof of Jewish ownership exists and Kat has an idea where: the prophet Jeremiah’s jar which contains the property deed to land outside Jerusalem he purchased in 587 BC.
This deed would not only prove ownership of land in Israel but also fulfill a prophetic promise to Jeremiah and the nation today. And Kat has an inkling where it is.
Meanwhile, when the President decides to build a new American embassy in Jerusalem, jihadists explode in fury, targeting the heart of the Jewish nation.
Max is called in to protect the ambassador, but his first duty is to protect Kat at all costs.
Here’s a scene from Operation Jeremiah’s Jar:
Suddenly, automatic gunfire erupted behind Max. The driver-side rear-view mirror shattered. The fire was coming from a stairwell leading to the second floor. He was thankful the truck was a refrigerated unit and not an empty flatbed, which would have exposed him to the assault.
He slid to the passenger side of the front seat, opened the door, jumped down, and gripping his rifle in his hands, fell to the ground. Beneath the truck, he spotted two sets of military boots. Holding up his rifle, he slithered toward the middle of the truck, then took aim and opened fire.
Four legs flew up, and two bodies joined them on the floor, the men screaming oaths in pain. Max slid sideways and came out from under the driver’s side of the truck.
He stepped forward and rifle-butted each of them into unconsciousness. Doing you a favor, boys. Now you won’t feel the pain. Momentarily, all was quiet. He took a step toward the stairwell, toward the [mission’s target].
Then he heard the click of a magazine being pushed into place not far behind him. One of the soldiers behind the filing cabinet.
In that millisecond, knowing he would die, Maximus Braxton, American-born and bred, former bronco-riding teenager, SEAL- and Ranger-trained soldier, thought of the one thing he loved most and best in the world besides Jesus—Katherine Cardova Braxton. He saw her bright green eyes, her short, curly red hair, her quick smile, and the perfect ears he loved to nibble. He recalled their last “word”—a kiss. And he whispered goodbye.
What happens next? You’ll have to read Operation Jeremiah’s Jar to find out. When you’re finished, please drop a quick review at Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. I’d be grateful.